Jackpots, Freerolls, & Promos--Nuts, Bolts, & Comments

All Vegas Poker's best threads of all time, including threads with historical significance
User avatar

Grange95
Royal Flush
 
Posts: 3815
Joined: Fri Mar 30, 2007 1:51 pm
Location: A Place Called Lee Ho Fuk's

Jackpots, Freerolls, & Promos--Nuts, Bolts, & Comments

Postby Grange95 » Fri Sep 04, 2009 12:11 am

A special welcome to those readers finding there way to this post via famous poker bloggers Poker Grump (15 Sept. 2009 entry)—a/k/a AVPer Rakewell—and Pauly at Tao of Poker (17 Sept. 2009 entry).


Introduction

High hand jackpots (HHJs), bad beat jackpots (BBJs), freeroll tournaments (“freerolls”), and other promotions (“promos”) are a common sight in many poker rooms. Since $1/hand is being raked for these promos, it pays to know how the promos work, as well as their purposes and their relative advantages and disadvantages. This thread is intended to accomplish three purposes: 1) discuss the concept of promos in general, including their pros and cons; 2) describe the various common promos encountered in Vegas poker rooms; and 3) evaluate the pros and cons of each type of promo. Although this thread will focus on Vegas promos, most of the discussion will be applicable to any poker room running these types of promos.


General Promo Basics (with Commentary)

Promos must be distinguished from “comps”. Comps—generally $1/hr. of play or a meal voucher for a set number of hours of play—are funded solely by the house. Promos are funded by a $1/hand jackpot rake (a/k/a the jackpot “drop”), which is typically raked at the same time as the first $1 of the house rake is taken (usually when a pot reaches $10). Some rooms will take a jackpot rake regardless of pot size from any hand other than a blinds chop. Very rarely a room (e.g., Luxor) may drop $2 for the jackpot rake; avoid these rooms!

The jackpot rake is generally only taken on smaller and more popular games, typically including 2/4 LHE, 3/6 LHE, and 1/2 NLHE. “Medium” games like 4/8 LHE and 2/5 NLHE tend to be hit or miss by room, while larger games almost never take a jackpot rake. In some cases, a poker room will offer players at a 4/8 LHE or 2/5 NLHE table the option of whether to take a jackpot rake; if the rake is not taken, the table is ineligible for jackpot-funded promos. Most rooms limit the jackpot rake to Hold ‘Em games, though a few rooms will have a jackpot rake for smaller Stud or Omaha games; the scope of the discussion in this post will be limited to Hold ‘Em promos as they are far more common in occurrence and in relevance to most recreational poker players.

The jackpot rake must be used to fund promos, and in theory must be redistributed in full to the players (whether in cash or prizes), although the house in some states may be permitted to keep certain administrative fees (Nevada requires a 100% redistribution of the jackpot funds, and does not permit house administrative fees). Thus, the jackpot rake must be kept separate from the house rake and accounted for separately. This segregation of jackpot rake is accomplished by using a separate jackpot rake box, typically on the left of the dealer. Also, if a jackpot rake is taken from a game, players in that game must be eligible for jackpot-funded promos. Likewise, if a jackpot rake is not taken from a game, players in that game are not eligible for jackpot-funded promos. A quick way to determine if your game is eligible for jackpot-funded promos is to observe whether the jackpot rake is being dropped for your game (if a jackpot rake is not being taken, the jackpot rake slot will be covered or blocked).

In theory, assuming players can play an infinite number of hands, all players have an equal opportunity to recoup their full share of the jackpot rake (i.e., to gain back as much value in jackpot promos as they have contributed dollars to the jackpot rake). In reality, many of the promos are set up to award large amounts of money to a few players solely on the basis of chance (rather than skill), or are set up to reward regular players over tourists. Also, winning players pay a highly disproportionate share of the jackpot rake, because the jackpot rake cuts into the amount of money available for them to win (see my discussion of how winning players pay a disproportionate amount of regular house rake HERE for a full explanation of this effect). Assuming 25-35 hands are dealt per hour, the jackpot rake will take $25-$35 more per hour out of a game compared to a game without a jackpot rake, depending on the rate of play. If a winning player expects to win 20%-35% of the money in play, the jackpot rake costs that player roughly $5-$12 per hour. Thus, if a winning player plays 20 hours while on a Vegas vacation, that player will contribute roughly $100-$240 in jackpot rake; if that player does not receive any compensation via jackpot-funded promos during his trip, the jackpot rake is a real loss to that player. Or, to look at it another way, the jackpot rake forces a winning player to invest money in promos that are, in many respects, akin to slot machines or lotteries—most winning players would prefer to invest that money in a game they can beat (poker, perhaps?). Conversely, a losing player will effectively pay substantially less—and in some instances, none—of the jackpot rake, while still having the same odds of winning jackpot-funded promo money (contributed disproportionately by the winning players).

So why would a winning player want to play in a game with a jackpot rake? The easy answer is, most winning players would like to avoid the jackpot rake altogether, which is why bigger games almost never take a jackpot rake, and rooms that cultivate a more “serious” atmosphere rarely take a jackpot rake. Among the major Vegas “tourist” casinos, most of the big poker rooms—Bellagio, Venetian, Wynn, and MGM Grand—do not take a jackpot rake and do not offer typical jackpots or similar promos (though they will occasionally offer special house-funded promos—typically freeroll or guaranteed payout tournaments). Conversely, Caesars Palace, Mirage (a recent convert to jackpot-funded promos), and almost all of the “smaller” rooms (fewer than 15 tables) will take a jackpot rake and offer some kind of jackpot-funded promos.

The primary intended purpose of jackpot-funded promos, from the house perspective, is to generate interest in the poker room, create more games, attract more players, and thus increase the house rake. A valid question is why these promotions need to be funded by players rather than the house. The most obvious answer is that, for many smaller rooms, there simply is not sufficient profit from poker to permit a significant promotional budget. If the house funded all promos, many smaller rooms would either drop promos, increase the house rake, or close the poker room. The most likely response—raising the house rake to pay for promos—would result in essentially the same rake as being taken via the jackpot rake, but without any requirement that the money be returned to players via promos.

Although the jackpot rake is a net direct cost to winning players, those players may recoup that cost indirectly in a number of ways. First, promos can attract casual—meaning bad—players to a room, particularly a smaller room (the “bait effect”). Second, promos can attract a base of regular players to a room, ensuring games exist to keep casual players at the room (the “trap effect”). Third, promos can encourage casual players to alter their play in a negative manner, e.g., chasing quads or straight flushes when getting poor odds or in bad situations (the “donkey effect”). These factors often create a playing environment where there is better action from poorer opponents, which should increase a winning player’s overall profits, despite the extra cost of the jackpot rake. Whether and to what extent a poker room’s promos accomplish these goals should help a winning player determine whether to play at a particular room with a jackpot rake.

It is strongly recommended that players familiarize themselves regarding the specific rules in effect at each poker room which offers promos, as each room’s rules will vary slightly. The rules will be posted (usually near the manager’s podium or station), and most dealers and floors are more than happy to explain the rules if you ask. Also, be prepared to show a valid ID and/or a players’ club card prior to collecting the promo money; casinos like to track these kinds of payouts to permit an audit of the jackpot funds, and some jackpots or promos may require tax reporting or withholding.

Finally, an extra tip or gratuity for the dealer and floor is customary after winning a cash-based promo; the amount is discretionary (as always), and should be commensurate with the amount won in the promo. My suggestion would be to tip the dealer as if you had won a pot of the same size as the promo winnings; alternatively, tip ~3%-5% of the amount won to the dealer. If you win a sizable promo, it is appropriate to tip the floor $5-$10 for handling paperwork. Of course, if you are feeling generous because of your promo win, or because you like the dealer or the room, you can certainly tip above these suggested guidelines. However, most dealers and floors will truly appreciate any tip of any amount; just use your best judgment and don’t stiff them entirely.


Common Promos—Nuts, Bolts, & Comments

What follows are general descriptions of the most common promos, as well as discussions of their advantages and disadvantages. The specific details for promos will vary by poker room, so these descriptions and comments should be used as general guidelines only.

High Hand Jackpots (HHJs):

HHJs are easily the most common promos offered in Vegas poker rooms. Specific rules will vary by room, but generally cash bonuses are paid to players when they hit four of a kind (quads) or a straight flush. Typically, both of a player’s hole cards must play for the hand to qualify for the HHJ bonus. For example, if a player held 7c5c and the board ran out 6c-8c-9c-Tc-Qc, the player would not qualify for a straight flush bonus (since the 5c would not play in making the best 5-card hand for that player); also, a lone Jc in the hole would not qualify for a bonus on this board, but KcJc in the hole would qualify. Similarly, a player holding KJ on a board of K-K-K-Q-Q would not be eligible for a quads bonus, but a player with QQ on that same board would qualify for the bonus. Using the same K-K-K-Q-Q board, in some rooms, AK would qualify for a quads bonus since the A kicker plays in making the best 5-card hand, but the more common rule requires a pocket pair to qualify for the quads bonus.

HHJ bonuses can be either a fixed amount, or progressive. If a fixed amount, the amount is typically $50-$100 for quads, and $100-$250 for straight flushes. If progressive, the bonus usually starts at $50-$100, and is generally capped at $599 (for tax reporting and withholding purposes), though some rooms impose no cap. Royal flushes are generally given special treatment, with either a higher fixed payout or more commonly being made progressive with a higher cap ($5,000+) or no cap.

If a jackpot rake is not taken on a hand (i.e., there is not $10 in the pot), the hand in play may not be eligible for jackpot-funded promos, including HHJs. In these situations, a player may make a very small bet ($5 or so), hoping to get a “courtesy call” to make the hand jackpot-eligible; the courtesy call is necessary because money bet but not called is generally not considered to be “in” the pot for purposes of taking a jackpot rake. If a HHJ is won in this fashion, it is considered good manners to “refund” the courtesy call. Although this rule also technically applies to other single-hand promos (e.g., BBJs and aces cracked), the nature of the hands in play for those promos virtually guarantees a pot large enough to satisfy the jackpot rake requirement.

Also, once a player has a hand that qualifies for a HHJ, the player is generally entitled to receive the HHJ, even if the hand does not go to showdown, and even if the hand does not make it to the river. However, a player should alert the dealer promptly at the end of the hand that s/he holds a possible HHJ-eligible hand. This prevents the dealer from accidently mucking the board cards prior to verifying the winning hand indeed was entitled to a HHJ. Often, the dealer will be required to verify that the deck in play was not fouled by counting down and sorting out all the cards in play before the HHJ can be awarded. It should go without saying that the player’s hand must be properly tabled and should be protected by the player until the HHJ is verified.

HHJs are popular because they add a certain sense of excitement and gambling to the game. HHJs occur frequently enough to generate “buzz” at other tables, and can create a certain “festive” mood, which is conducive to a fun game and satisfied customers. HHJs also create a certain amount of goodwill; someone winning a HHJ will feel “lucky” at that room and is more likely to give the room repeat business or a rave review to their friends.

From the perspective of a winning player, HHJs are probably the least objectionable promo. Eligible hands occur frequently enough that a regular player in a room should have a decent chance of winning a HHJ and recouping part of their jackpot rake. HHJs also encourage bad play among poor players, who often play HHJ-eligible starting hands for raises when the correct play would be to fold, and poor players also will chase HHJ-eligible hands postflop despite getting poor odds (this is particularly true with straight flush draws). The HHJ money won by poor players often finds its way back into the game, particularly since the bonuses tend to be smaller, generally in the range of 1-3 typical buy-ins for the game.

Smart players generally should not alter their playing style to attempt to win a HHJ bonus. Assume a player flops a set or an OESFD, and the HHJs for the room are $100 for quads and $250 for a straight flush. With two cards to come, the player with a set is ~4% to make quads by the river, while the player with the OESFD is ~8% to make the straight flush by the river. The extra equity from the potential HHJ is $4 ($100 x 4%) for the quad draw and $20 ($250 x 8%) for the OESFD. Rarely will this extra equity provide enough additional pot odds to support making a call that would otherwise not be justified; this reasoning is even stronger on the turn when the percentages of making the hand are cut in half, and most big money decisions need to be made (i.e., big bets in LHE kick in and stack-threatening bets in NLHE are common).

The importance of not letting a HHJ influence play is strongest preflop, when the odds of making quads from a pocket pair or a straight flush from suited connectors/gappers is a true long shot. For informational purposes, in a seven card poker hand, the odds of hitting quads are 595:1 (0.168067%), the odds of hitting any straight flush are 3,217:1 (0.031083%), the odds of hitting any straight flush other than a royal flush are 3,590:1 (0.027851%), and the odds of hitting a royal flush are 30,941:1 (0.003232%). The odds of a hitting a HHJ are substantially longer once the requirement that both pocket cards must play is factored into the equation; one AVPer has helpfully calculated the odds of hitting a HHJ-eligible quads hand at 2,083:1 (0.048008%), while my calculations show that the odds hitting any HHJ-eligible royal flush are 64,974:1 (0.0015391%) and a particular HHJ-eligible royal flush are 259,896:1 (0.0003848%). Thus, HHJ bonuses should never be considered when making preflop playing decisions; to the extent weaker players do play hands because of possible HHJs, the stronger players should benefit.


Bad Beat Jackpots (BBJs):

BBJs are likely the second-most common form of jackpot rake-funded promo. The generic BBJ requires a strong hand to be beaten by an even stronger winning hand. The losing hand is generally at least aces-full or better, though it is quite common for rooms to require the losing hand to be aces full of jacks (or aces full of kings) or better, or even quads or better. The winning hand is almost always required to be quads or better, though occasionally a room will require the winning hand to be a straight flush. Players are required to play both pocket cards to qualify a winning or losing hand. Rooms that permit aces-full for the losing hand will usually require at least one ace in the player’s pocket cards (for these rooms, holding KK with A-A-A-8-8 on board against 88 would not qualify, but AK on a board of A-A-K-8-8 against 88 would qualify). Some rooms permit quads to be made with three of the rank on board, so long as the player’s kicker from his pocket cards plays in making the best five-card hand (for these rooms, holding 87 with 8-8-8-6-6 against 66 would qualify, but 85 on the same board would not qualify). Other rooms require a player to have a pocket pair to make a qualifying quads hand. Some rooms will start the losing hand requirement at a high level (maybe quad aces) and gradually reduce the losing hand requirement on a weekly basis; this process helps build the BBJ early, and generates more “buzz” (and business) when the losing hand requirement decreases as the BBJ simultaneously reaches a high amount. As with HHJs, it pays to take a few moments to familiarize yourself with a room’s specific BBJ requirements.

Most BBJs are paid from a progressive jackpot, which usually starts at $5,000 to $25,000, and can grow well above $100,000, depending on the qualifying hand requirements (the bigger the qualifying hands, the harder it is to hit the BBJ, and the bigger it tends to get) and the level of business for the room (more players means more jackpot rake to build the BBJ, though it also means more hands dealt making it more likely the BBJ will be hit). It is common for a poker room to use a portion of the jackpot rake money to fund several (1-3) “backup” or “reserve” BBJs so that if the “main” BBJ is awarded, the next BBJ starts at a reasonably high level.

Payouts from the BBJ are generally divided among the players at the table where the BBJ hand occurred. A typical payout schedule would be 50% to the losing hand, 25% to the winning hand, and the remaining 25% divided among the remaining players at the table. In rooms where the BBJ is set up to routinely get fairly large before being hit, a portion of the BBJ may be distributed among all players in the room. Some casino groups (e.g., the Stations casinos) may be linked to one joint “mega-BBJ”, which pools jackpot rake from several casinos and makes players at each participating casino eligible to win (much like linked slot machines with large progressive jackpots).

As with HHJs, the dealer generally will be required to verify that the deck in play was not fouled by counting down and sorting out all the cards in play before the HHJ can be awarded. Both players’ hands must be properly tabled and should be protected by the players until the HHJ is verified.

Many poker rooms prohibit players from discussing the possibility of a BBJ during the course of play. Mentioning that a board presents a possible BBJ is strongly frowned on, while directly asking a player if he has a BBJ-eligible hand or stating to a player that he has a BBJ-eligible hand is likely to have the BBJ voided. I’m aware of one sizable BBJ (> $30,000) that was voided at my local casino because a player not in the hand noticed a player about to muck the losing BBJ-eligible hand. Essentially, be smart and keep your mouth shut about possible BBJ situations!

Hitting a BBJ is such an improbable event that no player should ever adjust their playing style to chase a BBJ, no matter the size of the payout. The odds of a BBJ occurring on any given hand will depend on the rules in place for BBJ-eligible hands. Using odds generated by The Wizard of Odds, having aces full of kings or better beaten (using an ace in the hand if aces full is the losing hand, and a pocket pair for quads) is a 71,326:1 longshot (0.001402%), while having any quads beaten by a better hand is a 92,507:1 longshot (0.001081%) (see HERE for additional discussion of BBJ odds). These odds grow even more remote when factoring in that many potential BBJ qualifying hands may be mucked preflop or on the flop due to the betting. To put these odds in perspective, LiveScience reports the following odds for causes of death for a typical U.S. citizen:

    Assault by Firearm: 1-in-325
    Electrocution: 1-in-5,000
    Drowning : 1-in-8,942
    Air Travel Accident: 1-in-20,000
    Legal Execution: 1-in-58,618
    Lightning Strike: 1-in-83,930

BBJs are a negative promo from the perspective of a winning player. The “lightning strike” odds for hitting the BBJ make it highly unlikely for any one player to ever recoup his direct investment of jackpot rake. The large amounts paid out when a BBJ hits tend not to be put back into play, particularly if the winner is not a regular player at the poker room. When the BBJ gets sufficiently large, it does attract players to the poker room, but often there are a high percentage of players who are simply playing ultra-tight, looking to pay as little as possible in an attempt to hit the BBJ, or even worse, simply folding most hands while hoping to get a table share or room share when someone else hits the BBJ. Winning players can make some money by exploiting the poor decisions made by players chasing the BBJ, but the generally tight play makes the process difficult.


Aces / Faces Cracked:

These promos award small bonuses (typically $25-$50) to players who have pocket aces (and in some cases, pocket kings) “cracked”. Generally, to qualify, a player must go all the way to the river and lose at showdown. The losing aces (or faces) hand must be tabled, and the hand verified by the dealer. Depending on the room, in multiway pots, the player may only need to lose the main pot to qualify, or may be required to lose the main pot and all side pots.

These promos are generally run only at set hours of the day, often in the morning to attract players to start new games. This often leads to a mass exodus of promo-chasing players at the end of the promo time period, which can either open up spots for loosey-goosey tourists on the wait list, or can leave games on life support, desperate for more players. These promos are also more popular with limit hold ‘em players than with no limit players (losing with pocket aces is more common and cheaper in limit). These promos tend to attract tight (rock-ish, even nitty) players, and games often play differently since players (particularly limit players) often can make more money from the bonus than from their hand.


Freeroll Tournaments:

“Freerolls” are tournaments for which the prize pool is funded by jackpot rake money rather than an entry fee (some freerolls are also funded fully or partially by the house, but those tourneys are beyond the scope of the discussion of jackpot-funded freerolls). Generally, players must qualify for the tourney by playing a set number of hours in a given week or month. In some rooms, additional or “bonus” starting chips may be awarded based on the total hours played. Players are also typically given the option of a small cash fee ($5-$10) for a chip add-on; the add-on fees are used to fund dealer tips. Structures in these tourneys tend to be very fast, and the prize pool is often divided by multi-way chop.

Freerolls are targeted at a narrow base of regular local players. Tourists and local players who cannot qualify for or participate in the tourney should avoid rooms which offer a freeroll as a primary promo, as those players will have no opportunity to recoup their fair share of the jackpot rake. Although freerolls can be effective at maintaining a core group of regular players who will provide consistent games, those players generally tend to play a very tight (rock-ish, even nitty) style, as their primary goal is to rack up hours to qualify for the freeroll. If a room does not track hours at the table, a freeroll promo can also cause an unusually high rate of players absent from the table (why actually play if you can rack up qualifying hours while wandering the casino?). Finally, once players meet the hourly qualifications, they have little or no incentive to continue playing in the room until the next qualifying period begins (unless bonus chips can be earned through additional play), which tends to negate the benefits of the promo.


Cashback Promos:

Cashback promos are roughly analogous to online rakeback payments—players are given cash bonuses for playing during certain periods of the day, or for playing a set number of hours per month. The most prominent examples of this type of promo are two cashback promos being offered by Harrah’s poker room this past year—one is a “brunch club” promo for morning play, and the other is a promo based on total hours played each month (details on both promos can be found in this AVP discussion thread, or by contacting the Harrah’s poker room). The “brunch club” promo awards a $10/hour bonus (capped at $30) for the player’s buy-in the next day, after qualifying with at least one hour of play during the morning promo hours. The monthly hours promo awards cash back, up to $599, based on the total number of hours played in a calendar month.

These promos are designed to create a steady base of regular local players for the room, and to help get games started in the mornings (a sometimes difficult task for small rooms, particularly on weekdays). By all accounts, the promos have been successful in achieving both goals. The promos are problematic for tourists, however, because tourists generally are unable to take advantage of either offer, and thus, their jackpot rake contributions are redistributed to subsidize the cash payouts made to regular local players. For example, a tourist in town for a two or three day convention might play several lengthy evening sessions, but never be able to recoup any of his jackpot rake by partaking in the “brunch club” promo. By contrast, a “brunch club” player who plays only a few hours per day likely contributes far less jackpot rake than the $30 bonus he pockets each session; that excess jackpot rake is coming directly from tourists or other players who cannot take advantage of the promo. Similarly, a tourist who spends two weeks in Vegas and plays a significant number of hours (and pays a significant amount of jackpot rake) might still be unable to collect on the monthly cashback offer if the player is unable to return to Vegas the following month to collect the bonus in person (as required by the rules). Again, the tourist has contributed a significant amount of jackpot rake which that player is unable to have a fair chance to recoup. Conversely, the players receiving cashback payments typically are paid more promo money than they contributed to the jackpot rake; again, this excess jackpot rake is coming directly from tourists or other players who cannot take advantage of the promo.

Although tourists or non-regulars may not be able to take full advantage of these types of cashback promos, the promos do offer some benefit to those players by ensuring that games are up and running during morning hours, rather than waiting until mid-afternoon as is common in many smaller rooms (particularly weekdays). In many cases, players would otherwise only be able to find morning games on a consistent basis in a handful of the “big” rooms, where many casual players may be too intimidated to play (or which are too inconveniently located for those players). In such a case, a tourist might regard the use of the jackpot rake to fund cashback promos as a minor cost to generate a game in a poker room they like or otherwise find profitable.


Wheel Spins:

A few rooms offer a “carnival wheel” spin if a particular qualifying event occurs. Typical qualifying events include getting aces cracked, hitting quads or a straight flush, suffering a bad beat, playing a set number of hours, etc.; the qualifying event(s) will vary by room. The wheel will generally offer an array of monetary and/or merchandise prizes, usually in the range of values seen with HHJs ($25-$250). Rooms currently offering wheel spin promos include Excalibur and TI (details regarding the TI wheel promo can be found on this AVP discussion thread).

Practically speaking, the wheel spin promos operate much like traditional HHJ or aces cracked promos, only dressed up with extra glitz and fanfare. Thus, they offer the same advantages and disadvantages as the regular HHJ and aces cracked promos, except the wheel spin tends to emphasize the “fun” element of the bonus money, which helps to advertise the promos to the players in the room, encourages other players to attempt to qualify for a wheel spin, and creates an entertaining, light-hearted playing environment.


Splash Pot Bonuses:

Splash pot promos are monetary bonuses added to a pot selected at random at a set time or during a particular window of time. Essentially, at the designated time, a table is selected at random and an envelope containing the bonus money (or a slip of paper indicating the bonus amount) is added to the pot for the next hand played at the selected table. The bonus amount might be fixed, or more commonly, is a varying “mystery” amount (usually in the $25-$1,000 range).

The splash pot bonus is intended to encourage players to play in the poker room during selected periods of time, and to add a sense of fun and gambling to the game. Splash pot bonuses, however, can create significant distortion in game play that may have unintended negative consequences. The problem occurs primarily because the splash pot bonus creates a potentially significant “overlay” for the pot, causing players to play hands preflop they would normally fold, and causing players to make plays preflop and on the flop they otherwise would not make. For example, a 1/2 NLHE player with a sizable stack might find AA in a splash pot. A normal raise that would normally get most players to fold instead can create a cascade of calls, or even a series of all-ins by players with short stacks, which in turn may “price in” deeper stacked opponents with more speculative holdings. Thus, the player with AA may find himself investing a significant portion—possibly all—of his stack preflop against four or five players, dramatically increasing his chances of losing a hand he normally would have played as a dominating favorite heads up or in a three-way pot.

The potential game distortion effect of splash pot promos is a significant problem that serious players should avoid if possible. Poker room managers contemplating a splash pot promo would be wise to consider an alternative promo which does not carry the risk of serious game distortion—e.g., hold a random drawing for a table and player seat at designated times; that player could then be awarded a mystery bonus envelope.


Report Card for Common Promos

So how do these common promos stack up? Awarding them traditional letter grades would result in this report card:

No Promos (A+)—A room without a jackpot rake goes to the head of the class. Consider it a completely fair $1/pot bonus.

HHJs (B)—Generally fair in distribution, low game distortion effect (minor chasing of speculative hands), encourages fun atmosphere and poor play.

Cashback Promos (C+)—Good for generating and maintaining games during promo hours, low game distortion effect (possible increase in nitty play), but moderate bias against tourists.

Aces Cracked (C-)— Good for generating and maintaining games during promo hours, moderate game distortion effect, and moderate bias in favor of LHE players.

Freeroll Tourneys (D-)—Good for generating and maintaining games during promo hours, moderate game distortion effect (definite increase in nitty play), and significant bias against tourists.

BBJs (D-)— Good for generating and maintaining games if the jackpot is large, moderate game distortion effect (definite chasing of speculative hands), and tends to remove jackpot money from the poker economy (or at least makes the money substantially less available to those who contributed to the jackpot pool).

Splash Pot Promos (F)— Severe game distortion effect renders this type of promotion utterly irredeemable.


--------------------------------------------------------------------
FIRST MAJOR EDIT: Corrected an error in describing the Harrah’s cashback promos, and added a subsection regarding Splash Pot Promos.

SECOND MAJOR EDIT: Added additional common requirements and recommendations applicable to HHJs (hat tip to Rakewell/Poker Grump; see his comments below). Also added the last “report card” section.
Last edited by Grange95 on Fri Sep 25, 2009 10:09 am, edited 8 times in total.
"I am become Death, destroyer of Aces, slayer of Kings, tilter of D-Bags."

Follow me on Twitter ... Grange95 ... or on my blog ... crAAKKer.

User avatar

HLV Poker Guy
Harrahs Poker Shift Manager
 
Posts: 587
Joined: Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:40 pm

Re: Jackpots, Freerolls, & Promos--Nuts, Bolts, & Comments

Postby HLV Poker Guy » Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:23 am

Grange - Excellent analysis. Only one point of correction:

Back in January, the morning promo was changed at Harrah's. Players who start between 8am and noon are eligible for the brunch promo, and receive $10/hr. for every hour they play (up to $30) on their next session. For example, if a player puts in 1 hour today, they can play at a later time (up to midnight the following day) and get $10 for an hour of play. If they are short on time, they can actually do so later the same day (with at least an hour off the table). This makes it substantially easier for even the casual tourist to get more money out of the promo pool, as even 1 hour gets them something. At $10/hr. that's essentially their house rake back for that hour. Whether they are a winner or loser is up to them, but the house rake has at least been given back. These are measured in 1/2 hour increments, so 90 minutes of play is worth $15.

One point to note on the discussion of who benefits from which promotion - the time-based promos definitely skew toward the regular or longer-term player (we have many customers that come into town for a week or more at a time, and easily hit the requirements for the longer term promotions). But the HHJ/BBJ promotions tend to skew more to the tourist as a whole. Because of the number hours played, the regular has a better overall chance of hitting them than a single tourist. But of the hours played in our room (as an example), there are 3x as many hours played by non-regulars as there are regulars. So the odds that a non-regular will hit one of those jackpots at any given time is about 3-1 - the cards don't care who gets the hands. So, if we base the calculation on x number of hours between HHJ or BBJ being hit, it is far more likely that a tourist will hit these jackpots than a regular. This is borne out just from our raw numbers. In the last 30 days, we paid 178 jackpots. Of these, 31 (21%) went to locals/regulars. That's a bit low, but in line with what would be expected.

Once again, excellent analysis.

User avatar

axb001
Straight Flush
 
Posts: 1505
Joined: Mon Nov 03, 2008 2:15 pm

Re: Jackpots, Freerolls, & Promos--Nuts, Bolts, & Comments

Postby axb001 » Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:45 am

Well written. Co-incidently, I've just been writing something for my most recent trip report which re-inforces some of what you've said:

And there is a lesson here for the low-rolling tourist, something I have been aware for some time. A jackpot drop that is used to fund high-hand jackpots adds to the experience (the Excalibur does this best – a low threshold to qualify, and a wheelspin to see what you get). A jackpot drop that is used to fund a freeroll subtracts from the experience – it is taking money for something you can never qualify for, and encourages nitty local fun-killers to the table.

User avatar

Grange95
Royal Flush
 
Posts: 3815
Joined: Fri Mar 30, 2007 1:51 pm
Location: A Place Called Lee Ho Fuk's

Re: Jackpots, Freerolls, & Promos--Nuts, Bolts, & Comments

Postby Grange95 » Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:03 pm

HLV Poker Guy wrote:One point to note on the discussion of who benefits from which promotion - the time-based promos definitely skew toward the regular or longer-term player (we have many customers that come into town for a week or more at a time, and easily hit the requirements for the longer term promotions). But the HHJ/BBJ promotions tend to skew more to the tourist as a whole. Because of the number hours played, the regular has a better overall chance of hitting them than a single tourist. But of the hours played in our room (as an example), there are 3x as many hours played by non-regulars as there are regulars. So the odds that a non-regular will hit one of those jackpots at any given time is about 3-1 - the cards don't care who gets the hands. So, if we base the calculation on x number of hours between HHJ or BBJ being hit, it is far more likely that a tourist will hit these jackpots than a regular. This is borne out just from our raw numbers. In the last 30 days, we paid 178 jackpots. Of these, 31 (21%) went to locals/regulars. That's a bit low, but in line with what would be expected.


HLV, I corrected the OP to better reflect the state of the cashback promos, and also to note that tourists can indirectly benefit from the promos.

As for the HHJs skewing toward tourists (or non-regulars), I agree that, over time, you should find a close correlation between hours played and HHJs won; after all, the more hands played, the better the odds of hitting a HHJ-eligible hand. But hours played should also correlate fairly closely with contribution to the jackpot rake. So, if the hours ratio is 3:1 tourists:regulars, the jackpot rake contribution should also be roughly 3:1 tourists:regulars. Thus HHJs should, over time, be fairly neutral in terms of skewing toward tourists or regulars.

BBJs, however, are such a longshot that even playing a few hundred extra hours will not give a regular a significant edge in hitting the BBJ. Thus, I think it is fair to say that BBJs skew unfairly toward tourists, since the bulk of the jackpot rake will be paid out to a very small number of players, and the odds are high that most of those players will be tourists who have contributed relatively little to the jackpot rake.

These are additional reasons I find HHJs to be fairly innoccuous, while BBJs should be thrown into the ninth level of poker hell along with freerolls.
"I am become Death, destroyer of Aces, slayer of Kings, tilter of D-Bags."

Follow me on Twitter ... Grange95 ... or on my blog ... crAAKKer.

User avatar

Paulie_D
Full House
 
Posts: 738
Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 11:16 am
Location: London UK

Re: Jackpots, Freerolls, & Promos--Nuts, Bolts, & Comments

Postby Paulie_D » Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:17 pm

Grange. Another possible addition (even in general terms)

I recall a promotion at the Excal during the PokerPro days (not related to the tables) where anyone sat in on cash games received a raffle ticket every time a team scored in a specific football game. Unfortunately, I don't recall the exact details of the promo award, but I seem to remember this happening in other rooms.

Perhaps others remember it at the end of last year?

It cost the player nothing (except the drop), was basically random and didn't affect the play. Clearly, you had to be sat in to receive your ticket and so promoted players being in the room at specific times / days.
Wait...What!?

User avatar

HLV Poker Guy
Harrahs Poker Shift Manager
 
Posts: 587
Joined: Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:40 pm

Re: Jackpots, Freerolls, & Promos--Nuts, Bolts, & Comments

Postby HLV Poker Guy » Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:40 pm

Paulie_D wrote:Grange. Another possible addition (even in general terms)

I recall a promotion at the Excal during the PokerPro days (not related to the tables) where anyone sat in on cash games received a raffle ticket every time a team scored in a specific football game. Unfortunately, I don't recall the exact details of the promo award, but I seem to remember this happening in other rooms.

Perhaps others remember it at the end of last year?

It cost the player nothing (except the drop), was basically random and didn't affect the play. Clearly, you had to be sat in to receive your ticket and so promoted players being in the room at specific times / days.


Avariant of this are "Splash the Pot" promos, which can significantly affect the play. We ran these during football season, and while they seemed to increase traffic, they actually created more hassle than they were worth. Players complained about significant changes in play, and with good reason. Adding $50-$500 to a pot gives everyone pot odds from the get-go. In addition, it resulted in some players working to game the system. Since the amounts were based to the outcome of games (each team assigned a random amount), players would wait until the 4th of games to join games, and as soon as the prize was paid out, they would bail and leave the table short-handed. Not good for the players, or the room.

User avatar

mauihaole
Binion's Poker Dealer
 
Posts: 3908
Joined: Mon Apr 14, 2008 12:02 am
Location: Hawaii's 9th Island

Re: Jackpots, Freerolls, & Promos--Nuts, Bolts, & Comments

Postby mauihaole » Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:23 pm

Some stations casinos run a football squares promotion where if you get a qualifying hand during the week (I think the qualifier may have been a full house, but they'd lower it later in the week if they had lots of squares to fill) then you get a football square for either the late Sunday game or the Monday night game. They would award $100 for 1st quarter, halftime, 3rd quarter, and final. You have to be playing to receive your money and if no one claims a prize then it rolls over to the next week (i.e. no one claims a $100 first quarter prize in week 1, then week 2 the first quarter prize will be $200)

User avatar

apollo
Quads
 
Posts: 1000
Joined: Mon May 19, 2008 3:11 pm

Re: Jackpots, Freerolls, & Promos--Nuts, Bolts, & Comments

Postby apollo » Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:54 pm

HLV Poker Guy wrote:One point to note on the discussion of who benefits from which promotion - the time-based promos definitely skew toward the regular or longer-term player (we have many customers that come into town for a week or more at a time, and easily hit the requirements for the longer term promotions). But the HHJ/BBJ promotions tend to skew more to the tourist as a whole. Because of the number hours played, the regular has a better overall chance of hitting them than a single tourist. But of the hours played in our room (as an example), there are 3x as many hours played by non-regulars as there are regulars. So the odds that a non-regular will hit one of those jackpots at any given time is about 3-1 - the cards don't care who gets the hands. So, if we base the calculation on x number of hours between HHJ or BBJ being hit, it is far more likely that a tourist will hit these jackpots than a regular. This is borne out just from our raw numbers. In the last 30 days, we paid 178 jackpots. Of these, 31 (21%) went to locals/regulars. That's a bit low, but in line with what would be expected.

WHAT?!

If 30% of the hours put in are by the regulars, and 30% of the HHJ's are hit by the regulars, how does this "skew" anything toward the tourists? That just means it's neutral and favors nobody.

User avatar

Easystreet
Straight
 
Posts: 226
Joined: Tue Jul 28, 2009 1:49 pm

Re: Jackpots, Freerolls, & Promos--Nuts, Bolts, & Comments

Postby Easystreet » Fri Sep 04, 2009 4:47 pm

Grange95 wrote:
BBJs, however, are such a longshot that even playing a few hundred extra hours will not give a regular a significant edge in hitting the BBJ. Thus, I think it is fair to say that BBJs skew unfairly toward tourists, since the bulk of the jackpot rake will be paid out to a very small number of players, and the odds are high that most of those players will be tourists who have contributed relatively little to the jackpot rake.

These are additional reasons I find HHJs to be fairly innoccuous, while BBJs should be thrown into the ninth level of poker hell along with freerolls.


Grange -totally agree except for 1 thing - 9th level of hell is too high for these BBJ's - especially when the fine print states that both hole cards must play.
easystreet

User avatar

Paulie_D
Full House
 
Posts: 738
Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 11:16 am
Location: London UK

Re: Jackpots, Freerolls, & Promos--Nuts, Bolts, & Comments

Postby Paulie_D » Fri Sep 04, 2009 9:28 pm

HLV Poker Guy wrote:A variant of this are "Splash the Pot" promos, which can significantly affect the play. We ran these during football season, and while they seemed to increase traffic, they actually created more hassle than they were worth. Players complained about significant changes in play, and with good reason. Adding $50-$500 to a pot gives everyone pot odds from the get-go. In addition, it resulted in some players working to game the system. Since the amounts were based to the outcome of games (each team assigned a random amount), players would wait until the 4th of games to join games, and as soon as the prize was paid out, they would bail and leave the table short-handed. Not good for the players, or the room.


I remember the promo you mention but that is not what I am describing here.....At the Excal there was no effect on play as no money was added to pots...the raffle tickets were for a draw held at a later time once the game was over.

The only requirement was to be in a cash game when there was a score. The draw prize was a maybe $100 or so..I really can't recall exactly.
Last edited by Paulie_D on Fri Sep 18, 2009 2:44 am, edited 2 times in total.
Wait...What!?

Next

Return to Best of AVP

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests